I’ve always been a big fan of doing things in the kitchen the slow way. Knives, not food processors. Home-made stock, not store-bought. Fresh seafood, not preprocessed. The downside of this is that big projects like gumbo can take all day, sometimes longer. If I have to make a big pot of fish stock AND make my own roux AND cook and clean a big pile of live crabs AND chop all my veggies by hand…it’s just gonna take a long time. And I’ve found lately that this means that I end up not making gumbo very often any more, what with kid stuff and work stuff always getting in the way.
So I decided to see if I could set a speed record. With everything either done for me ahead of time, or done in the fastest manner possible, how long would a batch of seafood gumbo take? This was my project yesterday. I figured even if the gumbo came out lousy, it was at least a good way of decompressing from a rather grueling week at work, and might keep me away from the computer for an afternoon.
The challenge took place here, at Ray Kitchen Stadium:
It actually took me an hour to get the place this clean, what with kids breakfast and homework and science fair projects and dirty dishes all over the place. So we’re not counting cleanup time, and we’re not counting shopping time.
3:32pm: Start with the veggies: yellow onions, bell peppers, celery, okra (frozen, already sliced), tomatoes, seasoning mix, kosher salt. I got a food processor for Christmas so I’m using that to chop today rather than the chef’s knife.
Also spiritual guidance from Alex Patout:
and Clifton Chenier (you got to have a soundtrack when you make gumbo):
I’ve also got 4 quarts of frozen lobster stock I made last year when we had a lobster orgy at the house, so while the stock is thawing in the big pot, I get going on the okra. Thaw the okra in the microwave, and toss it into a big pan with 4 tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped), one chopped onion, a teaspoon of vinegar, half a cup of oil, seasoning and salt. Get that cooking on medium high heat until it’s bubbling:
then turn the heat down to low, cover, and don’t fuck with it for 45 minutes. While it’s cooking I chop the rest of the veggies and clean/season my seafood. Once the okra is done:
the stock should be thawed and good and hot. So add the okra to the stock, along with 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped bell peppers, about a cup of chopped celery, more salt and seasoning mix, and the roux:
Now I almost never use roux from a jar, I like to make it myself. It’s basically just flour browned in oil, and Cajuns tend to make a really dark roux, which looks and smells a lot like bitter chocolate. But we’re after speed here, so roux from a jar it is. Add the roux to the stock, stir like hell til it’s all dissolved, and bring the pot to a boil. (The roux acts as a thickener, but doesn’t hit maximum thickening power until it’s boiling.)
At this point, since it’s got the okra and the roux in there, it’s technically gumbo:
but it’s still pretty raw. Now we can add any seafood that doesn’t mind being cooked a while, which today means about a pound of catfish:
which was properly seasoned, of course:
and about a pound of blue crab claw meat:
Bring that to a boil then turn down to simmer for about an hour.
Twenty minutes before serving time, cook a few cups of long grain white rice:
Then, right before serving, add some chopped parsley and green onions, and the seafood which doesn’t want to cook a long time, which today means two pounds of Louisian crawfish (don’t buy Chinese crawfish!):
and two pints of Gulf oysters in their liquor:
Let it cook just until the edges of the oysters start to curl, and it’s done:
Serve it in bowls over the rice with crusty french bread:
and don’t forget the hot sauce:
7:04pm: Bon appetit.
We actually could have eaten before 6:30, except that the kids weren’t home from wherever they were all day. So we’ll call it three hours. Not too bad.
As to how it turned out? I give it a B-. I had some trouble with the roux not dissolving very well, so I think I ended up with not enough roux in there…you can see from the final picture, it’s not as thick as it should be. So the roux from a jar was harder to work with than homemade. I also don’t think that lobster stock was the best choice, but it’s what I had on hand. And the whole Cuisinart thing tends to turn the veggies into mush unless you’re really careful. Sorry, I just like my knife too much.
Anyway, today I will be resting and eating leftovers and trying not to think about taxes.
Have a lovely weekend.